An old, dilapidated shack that has stood on Gumtree road for more than 80 years is about to become the focal point of Gullah history on the island.
Volunteers from the Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association in April began working to repair and restore the small structure that dates back several generations in Louise Cohen’s family to the days of the Civil War. With help from the builders, Cohen hopes to restore the roughly 400-square-foot property to its condition when it was first constructed for a family member eight decades ago, and turn it into the focal point of Cohen’s planned Gullah museum for the island.
Cohen has spent the past few years organizing the effort, including gathering a board of directors, but this effort is the first major action toward making the museum a reality.
Builders met with Gullah community elders to make sure they understood the cultural importance of the building and how it was constructed, association executive officer Ashley Feaster said. That included how the walls were papered with old Sears catalogs and why an outhouse that was added to the site in later years should be removed because it didn’t match the original design.
The home was inhabited as recently as the 1980s, but it has since been riddled with termites and decay. Once the interior is refinished, crews will put in low-level lighting and plexiglass windows so visitors can look inside without disturbing the structure. Crews are working about one to three days a week and the total project will take about five months, Feaster said. A volunteer from the association is also helping the museum with some architectural renderings for its future museum.
“People that are working on this project have been on the island for a very long time,” Feaster said. “It’s neat and educational for our association to learn about the history of native islanders.”